Agricultural tourism is no cash cow for Swiss farmers: study

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Employees of the Swiss open-air museum Ballenberg put the finishing touches on a 2017 special exhibition “The cow: 1000 Things and a Pile of Manure”. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

As Switzerland gears up to celebrate National Day on August 1, offers for breakfasts on traditional farms, donkey rides or even nights in converted barns are in vogue. But these activities are not all that profitable for the agricultural sector, according to a recent university study.

This content was published on July 30, 2022 – 17:26

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The annual turnover of the agritourism sector in Switzerland stood between CHF52 million ($55 million) and CH91 million in 2021, out of the CHF11 billion generated by agriculture in the same year, according to the study by the Haute Ecole de Travail Social de la HES-SO Valais-Wallis.

For Claude Baehler, president of the Lausanne-based rural association Prométerre, this finding is not surprising. “These are very specific activities”, which require time and energy, he told Swiss public broadcaster RTS on Saturday. “It’s a side gig.”

For most farms, agritourism represents about 20% of their income, and even 40% for one in four farms. Accommodation is the most profitable offer, far ahead of catering and entertainment, according to the study. Overnight stays added up to almost 60% of the turnover for the farms surveyed.

Hoping for growth

Not all farms offer this type of service. Out of 50,000 Swiss farmers, only about 2,000 cater to overnight guests. Most of those surveyed have been doing so for more than 10 years.

The association Agritourism Switzerland wants to get more farmers on board. It says agritourism activities allow diversification and create a direct social contact between the professionals of the land and the population, who thus better understand certain realities of the profession.

Baehler says it is important “to offer something complementary to the hotel and restaurant business”. A sufficient workforce and adequate facilities are also essential to develop agritourism.

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